49ers Cap Casualty No. 4: WR Pierre Garcon
After inheriting a wide receiving corps led by journeyman slot receiver Jeremy Kerley, Lynch and Shanahan knew they had to clean house at the position. The first matter of business was signing a potential No. 1 wideout in former Washington Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon.
Garcon was never an elite No. 1 receiver and he was on the wrong side of 30, but Shanahan had a history with the nine-year veteran from their shared time in Washington. Garcon’s best NFL season came under Shanahan’s direction, as the scrappy wide receiver led the NFL with 113 receptions in 2013.
Garcon was past his prime, but he was a known commodity. He was a 1,000-yard receiver, a strong presence in the locker room and a quarterback safety value who possessed some of the best hands in the NFL:
The San Francisco 49ers paid Garcon like a No. 1 receiver, but they only received half a season’s worth of return from his five-year, $47.5 million deal. Despite poor quarterback play in 2017, Garcon was on pace to break 1,000 receiving yards before a neck injury ended his season prematurely.
Garcon wasn’t the same player after his 2018 return, as the receiver fought through knee and shoulder injuries before landing on injured reserve for the second consecutive season. Surprisingly, Garcon was no longer the reliable wideout he was in years past. After dropping just one pass over the prior two seasons, Garcon dropped 10 percent of the passes thrown his way in 2018.
Given the way the Niners chose to structure Garcon’s contract, Shanahan and Lynch expected the wide receiver to remain on the roster for at least one additional season. If the 49ers release him now, the team will incur $7.2 million in dead money against the NFL salary cap in 2019. In a more likely scenario, the 49ers could release Garcon with a post-June 1 designation, which would allow the team to spread the dead money out over the next two seasons.
The only way Garcon will remain on the 49ers’ roster in 2019 is if he agrees to restructure his contract. It’s possible that Garcon’s recent fall from grace was primarily injury-related and he still has something left in the tank, but the 33-year old receiver won’t be worth his $8.3 million price tag, which jumps up to $11.3 million in 2020.